Things People With An Ostomy Wished You Knew

An Ostomy Is Just Another Part Of A Well-Rounded Person

While it's not the most commonly-used surgery, ostomy surgery is used as a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). For people with ulcerative colitis, an ileostomy might be done — either permanent or as a stepping stone to a j-pouch. In Crohn's disease, both colostomy and ileostomy surgery are used when the intestines become too badly damaged. For some, the surgery is life-saving. For others it might be described as life-restoring. Freedom from debilitating symptoms can give a person a new chance at a better quality of life. Even so, ostomy surgery is the target of many misconceptions, some of which are hurtful, and all of which are untrue. Here are the things that people who have an ostomy wish you knew about them.

I Don't Smell

Smell The Roses
You know you don't smell. I know you don't smell. So let's tell THEM that you don't smell. Image ©

Somehow, somewhere, there started the idea that people with ostomies always have an unpleasant odor. That, of course, is just not true. And what's more, there's no basis for it. People who have an ostomy are just as "clean" as anyone else. Today's ostomy appliances are sophisticated, and are designed to contain odor. So rest assured — there's no smell.

I Have Sex

People with an ostomy do it, too. And probably more frequently and better than before they had their ostomy surgery. Image © Gabriella Fabbri

There are many falsehoods surrounding the sex lives of ostomates. Some people may think that once you have an ostomy, no one would want to have sex with you. Others wonder if people (especially men) with ostomies aren't physically capable of having sex. Of course, people who have ostomies date, get married, have sex, and have children too. There are ostomy appliances and lingerie made specifically for people with ostomies. Who do you think is buying those products? Ostomates who have healthy sex lives, that's who. 

I Wear What I Want

Clothes Shopping
You wear the clothes you want to wear -- no need for layers and layers to disguise the appliance!. Image © Robert Linder

If you think that having an ostomy means a limited wardrobe — think again. There's no reason that people who have ostomies can't wear anything they want. Dresses, swimwear, skinny jeans — a person who has an ostomy can wear whatever clothes they are most comfortable in. And nobody will see the ostomy appliance unless the ostomate wants to show it.

An Ostomy Gave Me My Life (Back)

Life prior to an ostomy may have been filled with pain and trips to the bathroom. Image © sanja genera

A person who has an ostomy has one because of an illness. There are several reasons ostomy surgery might be done, but it is always done to improve or save a life. Some people may be uncomfortable thinking or talking about an ostomy, but ostomates know their lives are improved (or saved) after having surgery.

I Don't Care What You Think

Bored Girl
People who have ostomies have really been through the wringer. Why should you care what people think of you?. Image © Christie Merrill

Illness and then surgery, perhaps at a young age, have made indelible marks on people who have an ostomy. They have already faced difficult choices and an uncertain future. Your opinion of them is not likely to be high on their list of worries. So, go ahead and get over it -- ostomates already have.

You Might Not Know Who I Am

Woman Wearing Mask
99.9% of people won't ever know that you have an ostomy. Image © Millie Joe

You might know it if your best friend had an ostomy, but how about your co-worker? Your child's teacher? Your hairdresser or your dentist? There's no way to know unless someone tells you. So don't assume everyone you meet is not an ostomate — chances are you know an ostomate already and are just unaware of it.

Ostomates -- They're Just Like Us!

People who have an ostomy aren't looking for special treatment or considerations. However, they deserve just as much respect as the next person. They may not be jumping for joy about their ostomy every day of their lives, but they are out there, living interesting lives and contributing to their communities and their culture.